Key change for Cisco IOS 15 – Feature Licensing and How We Work.

After looking at the announcement for End of Life support for IOS 12.4 (and you know that IOS 15 is the next version dont you ?) it’s worth looking into the big changes in IOS Feature licensing in case you are not aware of them.

Big Changes to how we work!

Single Image

IOS 15 is a single software package for the hardware platform that your are using. Now that flash is cheap and large, there doesn’t need to be a different IOS image for the different versions with the advanced features. So you get one software image that has all the features for that platform.

Licensing and Cisco Licensing Manager

You should note that IOS 15 enforces licensing for the Advanced feature sets. That is, you will need to register a license key for every IOS image that needs Advanced IP and receive an activation key to activate those features.

Licensing is basically similar to how the ASA software licenses work today. You need to buy the license, receive the PAK key on a piece of paper, register this on Cisco website to receive an activation key and then enter it into the router. If you want access to the advanced feature sets, you will need to purchase the license and activate it on the router.

Yes, Cisco equipment just got a whole lot harder to manage.

Caption Text.

Cisco IOS Licensing

Cisco License Manager

If you are a large company, it is time to implement Cisco Licensing Manager to manage the licenses on all of your equipment. This will allow you to manage and transfer licenses between physical units.

Operational Procedures

Note that when you replace a faulty router, you will have to activate the license on that router as part of the recovery process. So you will need to update your field engineers to make sure that they know how to do this and perform License Transfer Between Two Working Devices or get on the phone to the TAC or use the web to transfer a license.

Software Activation Configuration Guide

I can’t see any point in blogging about this in detail, Cisco IOS 15.0 documentation is clear and concise as always. Cisco really does the best documentation.
Cisco Router Icon
You can find out more in the†Software Activation Configuration Guide.

Time to go and learn what you need to know.

  • Your Nuts

    Wow having to do proper licensing is troublesome for you? Are you sure you should be doing this type of work. Cisco should have been enforcing this all along, they do on the MDS, PIX, ASA, IPS, Nexus, etc etc. Unified Communication Manager has for a while, and unity has as well.

    THis is part of life, get used to it. People want to be paid for their work.

    Instead of complaining why not examine how many companies buy IP BASE and use advanced IP services? This is a revenue loss for Cisco, which lowers the money they can spend on support and R&D. Come on be realistic here and not hyped up.

    • Greg Ferro

      I don’t have a problem with it, but a lot of people certainly will. Many people are not good at learning and the licensing requirement will change a lot of corporate and enterprise operation plans. Not everyone is highly motivated and willing to learn new methods.

      Second, it is for Cisco to decide to make more revenue by enforcing licensing and that’s fine by me. However, Cisco already makes a 65% gross profit margin on their products and I believe that the price of software licenses has been built in to the overall product price (especially the hardware).

      The question is whether we will see reductions in the price of hardware now the price of the software licenses is enforced. The increase in software revenue should mean a reduction in hardware price, but I doubt that this will happen. I expect Cisco to increase their profit margin even further.

      Will customers continue to pay the high prices or switch Huawei instead ? Many companies have already switched for exactly that reason.

    • Gruic

      Cisco is way expensive for what you’re getting. As a CCNP with over 15 years experience with Cisco products, I’ve seen them go from a dynamic growing company to greedy SOBs. We’ve known this day would come for a long time and for a lot of my customers, it now means not choosing cisco gear. This also basically kills the used gear market for cisco. Want to get a bit more life out of that router? Now you’ll have to throw it away instead of get the next software release for it. I see a the future in crowd-sourced projects that are also open source. is a good example of what a crowd-sourced project can accomplish. It’s tough enough to be a good engineer and keep up with everything, without having to spend even more BS time dealing with licensing… Just my two cents. Take it or leave it. -Gruic

  • http://N/AYet 1001QA

    Any idea what is going to happen with the people who want to practice with older hardware but with the newest IOS? Is there going to be a “For training only” licensing program?
    When do you thing we can expect this new IOS in the CCIE labs?

  • Nicolas

    Good Post, I didn’t know about this Feature Licensing. On the other hand, while flash cards are cheaper these days (especially non Cisco), it seems like you’d also need some extra RAM to run 15.0, don’t you?. Thanks.

  • Steve B

    I think “Your Nuts” is on the Cisco board. The Bonus centric mindset is the only reason for an attitude that belligerent.

    Anyway my 2p worth:

    Pros: Less trouble/confusion over IOS images i.e. Problems TFTP’ing, getting wrong version and not having the feature you require etc

    Much simpler to upgrade IOS Image (Although this isn’t exactly a daily thing IMO, updating the version rather than image type is much more likely)

    Err that’s all I can think off.

    Cons: An extra stage of work when carrying out a hardware swap, if it’s a high severity issue and there is a problem with the license side of thing people are going to get annoyed as Cisco have made their product less user friendly.

    Issues with training(GNS3) and testing in a lab environment. Performance/high end feature crippled IOS images being released to individuals via their CCO login would be nice to solve this?

    Confusion, hassle and time/money wasted as changes have to be digested by enterprises large and small. Will surely involve downtime for someone, somewhere the first time they encounter it.

    Feeling of being ripped off by Cisco. Not an issue so much for me as an Operations Engineer but looking at the bigger picture I agree fully with your comments above about profit margins and the point at which people move to HP, Huawei etc

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  • Jenny

    Hi Greg,

    I came across your quote in Jessica Scarpati’s article on SearchDataCenter, and posed the question to our members:

    Do you think an “educational license” or something similar would be helpful in easing some of these concerns?

  • Kiwi

    The majority of the routers we are deploying are for VPN functions – in theory licencing should be a huge advantage as effectively everyone new 2900/3900 router purchase has all the hardware we need and we unlock it as required versus previous routers where we needed AIM’s/additional RAM/flash to get a base unit upto the level of a VPN security bundle router.

    There are two major downsides:
    – I can see this causing problems with GNS so it will push some of the problems we deal with internally from GNS back to TAC
    – there’s some licencing gotchas (3900’s will only do 85Mbps IPSec on a security licence). Yes they’ll be fixed, but it’s annoying paying for one level of performance and getting less. The fix is a new licence which will probably more money :-(

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  • Ixne

    ” The increase in software revenue should mean a reduction in hardware price, but I doubt that this will happen. I expect Cisco to increase their profit margin even further.”

    This is exactly what has happened. A 24-port switch that cost $3000 now has an additional $2000 tacked on if you want basic IP Services. Ridiculous!

  • Cesarzua

    hi.. someone explain me how to apply  a cisco license on router 2911. please

  • Lance Hollandsworth

    I just found out about Cisco adding this new “Feature” of licencing on their equipment……and it’s basically making me consider another vendor for deploying network equipment. I’ve been a die hard Cisco fan for 20 years until seeing they’re charging an outrageous ridiculous amount for the IP Services licence…$2000 is retarded, the licence is more than the cost of the hardware I need to put it on. Cisco better reconsider this or I’ll be deploying HP from now on.